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Are Believers Delusional?

The Hammer

Skald
Premium Member
Why is it that people are unable or unwilling to read beyond the title and the first paragraph?
(I blame TikTok and YouTube shorts.)
Internet is a problem for sure.

Edit: for me personally, I'm too brain dead to read the entire OP, and assumed the title would sum the premise as I'm used to.
 

Heyo

Veteran Member
Not really. It isn't that often, but if is often among a certain crowd of Evangelicals, and it was pretty the norm in history.
Not sure how much is history and how much is myth, but according to the Bible, the Jews took the land which is about Israel today by force on command of their god. And some of the settlers use that religiously induced entitlement still as an excuse.
Kings and emperors claimed divine heritage or entitlement.
Conquistadores and colonialists were convinced they had god's approval.
Today, in the US, it's the Christian nationalists, a not so small and very influential group, who show that pride again. They claim that the US is a Christian nation, and they want political power (to the detriment of all other religious and non-religious groups).
So, not so often any more, but still too often.
 

PureX

Veteran Member
Is it really good for us though? Why can we not keep moving and advancing and just learn to accept the fact that we can't know almost anything?
I think a lot of us are just too frightened by this aspect of our reality.
I spent a lot of my life looking for certainty and trying to "know" things that I couldn't know and it was a complete waste, it's almost like an addiction, the more you try to reassure and convince yourself that everything is okay and everything you want to be certain of is known, the more you feel the need to reassure yourself, and the more uncomfortable you feel without performing these irrational rituals.
I agree. It is similar to an addiction. And it certainly can become an obsession for some of us. But even deluded or misplaced courage is still courageous. And I think we humans are often courageous in this way. And we are not always wrong. To believe that mankind will someday live in peace and harmony and shared proparity may be delusional, but if it encourages us to act on the surety of that delusion, we will still be helping to make it real. Or at least a little more real than it is now.
 

It Aint Necessarily So

Veteran Member
Premium Member
are-believers-delusional
Not by the medical definition you provided from the DSM-5, although believing that the universe was built in a week or that there were no people one day and two the next are for some "fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence."

There are ideas that are known to be incorrect, some known to be correct, some as yet undecided but potentially decidable empirically in the future, and unfalsifiable "not even wrong" ideas. According to the DSM-5 definition, only belief in the ideas fitting in the first of those four categories - ideas that can be shown to be wrong - deserves to be called delusion, but I group all beliefs apart from the second category together. If you believe anything which isn't demonstrably correct, you are in the same boat with anybody else that fits that description whether you believe things that are known to be untrue, presently undecided but potentially decidable, and the unfalsifiable, which can never be decided. Belief that any of the other categories is fact is faith, whether the belief is harmful or not.

Also, in my opinion, to be called a medical illness, a condition needs to be harmful to some degree. You may drink alcohol every day, but if it creates no physical or social problems for you, does it really deserve to be called alcoholism as in a problem. In the area of religious beliefs, if one believes that there are angels, there's probably no harm in that unless one believes that his guardian angel will protect him while drunk driving in the face of evidence to the contrary - all of the now dead drunk drivers, some having believed in angels. Should such ideas be classified differently apart from one being called more dangerous than the other? Is one a delusion but the other not?
 

Heyo

Veteran Member
Also, in my opinion, to be called a medical illness, a condition needs to be harmful to some degree.
Not only in your opinion. (See #29)
You may drink alcohol every day, but if it creates no physical or social problems for you, does it really deserve to be called alcoholism as in a problem. In the area of religious beliefs, if one believes that there are angels, there's probably no harm in that unless one believes that his guardian angel will protect him while drunk driving in the face of evidence to the contrary - all of the now dead drunk drivers, some having believed in angels. Should such ideas be classified differently apart from one being called more dangerous than the other? Is one a delusion but the other not?
Isn't that exactly what you demand above?
 

Rational Agnostic

Well-Known Member
I think a lot of us are just too frightened by this aspect of our reality.

I agree. It is similar to an addiction. And it certainly can become an obsession for some of us. But even deluded or misplaced courage is still courageous. And I think we humans are often courageous in this way. And we are not always wrong. To believe that mankind will someday live in peace and harmony and shared proparity may be delusional, but if it encourages us to act on the surety of that delusion, we will still be helping to make it real. Or at least a little more real than it is now.

I'm frightened by uncertainty too but my point is that obsessing over it and trying to get certainty when you can't have it and performing compulsive rituals only makes it worse in the long run. That is my opinion anyway.

And I don't think you need certainty that mankind will live in peace and harmony to work toward that goal--even the possibility of it should be enough, in fact certainty would diminish motivation (why work toward making the world better if it's certain to happen anyway?). Agnosticism about the future opens up a lot of possibilities and motivation to improve it.
 

Twilight Hue

Twilight, not bright nor dark, good nor bad.
via What Are Delusions?
The DSM also makes an exception for religiously held beliefs.

So, currently, believers are not seen as delusional.

But should they?

I think that they should when their beliefs lead to a sense of entitlement. There are enough examples, historical and present, that fall under that category.
"We shall conquer that land because it was given to us by our god."
"We deserve tax exemption because we believe in an invisible, higher being."
"I deserve special respect because of my irrational beliefs." (Blasphemy laws)
"You should vote for me, because I got called by my god to run for office."

Technically, it wouldn't even touch on the religious beliefs, only on the resulting entitlement, but even that seems to be a taboo.

What do you think, is someone who thinks that they are entitled to special treatment because of their beliefs, delusional?
I think the delusion lays in people's inability to distinguish between fantasy and actuality. If a person thinks their particular fantasy, religious or otherwise, actually exists outside of any respective realm, then they are mentally ill as far as I'm concerned because they can no longer effectively distinguish between those realms respectively.

Such people shouldn't be running for office or demanding special treatment or privileges because of that delusion that makes them mentally ill until they can once again distinguish between realms and sees things in the proper context as they are.
 

McBell

mantra-chanting henotheistic snake handler
A delusion is a belief that is held with strong conviction despite evidence disproving it that is stronger than any evidence supporting it. It is distinct from an erroneous belief caused by incomplete information (misconception or misunderstanding), deficient memory (confabulation) or incorrect perception (illusion).​
...​
Delusions are generally categorized in 4 groups: bizarre, non-bizarre, mood-congruent and mood-neutral. Bizarre delusions are strange and implausible, such as being vivisected by aliens, while non-bizarre delusions are possible but unlikely, such as being under surveillance. Mood-congruent delusions are false beliefs that are consistent with the patient’s mood if disordered, such as power and influence with mania and rejection and ostracism with depression. Mood-neutral delusions are not related to the patient’s mood, such as having two heads or one arm.​
...​
Delusional disorder is infrequent in psychiatric practice, possibly because many patients are able to function tolerably well despite their delusions, and perhaps also because those who believe implicitly in their delusions may not feel the need for treatment and may resist the suggestions of others that they seek psychiatric attention. Prevalence is estimated at 24 to 30 cases per 100,000 people, and new cases each year number 0.7 to 3.0 per 100,000. One to 2 per cent of mental health hospitalizations and only 0.001 to 0.003 per cent of first-time psychiatric admissions are due to delusional disorder (Kendler, 1982).​
...​
DSM-5 changes the diagnostic criteria for delusional disorder to reflect revision of the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia. In previous editions of the manual, delusions had to be “non-bizarre”, i.e., having erroneous beliefs related to real life (being followed or poisoned or persecuted) rather than, for example, the iconic delusion of being Napoleon Bonaparte. Bizarre delusions, such as detachment or liquefaction of body parts, can now be identified as manifestations of delusional disorder if they cannot be better explained by conditions such as body dysmorphic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder. In addition, DSM-5 removes the distinction between delusional disorder and shared delusional disorder, in which two or more individuals share a delusional belief, historically referred to as folie à deux. It was previously difficult to diagnose delusional beliefs in more than one person if the belief in question might ordinarily be widely shared in the patients’ culture, such as demonic possession at certain times in history or the existence of elves in certain countries. The revised criteria simply propose that if two patients strongly espouse an erroneous belief and have the other symptoms described above, then both patients have delusional disorder.​
 

9-10ths_Penguin

1/10 Subway Stalinist
Premium Member
I agree it would depend on what the person actually meant.
Sure.

For a belief like "I was called by God to do X," "called by" could mean anything from the arrangement of fate in a specific way—which is a belief many have even without necessarily attributing fate to the work of a god—to "I literally heard a divine voice call on me to run for office." In most cases, I would consider the latter much closer to a delusion than the former.

Among the Christians I know in real life, it's common to talk about the "still small voice" - a reference to a description of the voice of God in 1 Kings 19:12.

The idea is that - to them - when you quiet your mind and get into the right mindset, maybe pray, the ping of your conscience or the random thought that pops into your head is literally a communication from God.
 

sun rise

The world is on fire
Premium Member
The idea is that - to them - when you quiet your mind and get into the right mindset, maybe pray, the ping of your conscience or the random thought that pops into your head is literally a communication from God.
They're not the only ones. And this is a point where theists and atheists diverge. Typically theists have a set of principles to distinguish random personal thoughts from true communications. The word "discernment" can be used in this effort.
 

Ella S.

Well-Known Member
Is it really good for us though? Why can we not keep moving and advancing and just learn to accept the fact that we can't know almost anything? I spent a lot of my life looking for certainty and trying to "know" things that I couldn't know and it was a complete waste, it's almost like an addiction, the more you try to reassure and convince yourself that everything is okay and everything you want to be certain of is known, the more you feel the need to reassure yourself, and the more uncomfortable you feel without performing these irrational rituals.

I am glad that you posted this. I have been struggling with this, myself, for some time now. Uncertainty seems to me like a problem that needs to be fixed through consideration, research, experimentation, and argumentation, especially when it comes to the larger questions in life such as "What is right, and what is wrong?"

Ironically, as a moral rationalist, I do believe that there is an answer to that question for certain and that moral normativity can be understood as a simple expansion of epistemic normativity. Yet I also think there might be some logical counter-argument that I haven't considered which would disprove my position. Even when I'm certain, I'm not certain.

I think this is useful when my goal is to get as close to understanding the truth as possible. "Epistemic humility" is often tauted as an intellectual virtue. Yet, in practice, it means that I am constantly living under a fog of doubt and confusion. I can double-down on a conviction for the sake of argument, based mostly on what I think is most likely to be true, but I don't really have that level of confidence in anything I believe.

I'm also painfully aware of how much I am not an expert in the vast majority of fields, as well as how little we actually know in each of those fields and how much more we have left to figure out. Most of what we think we know in any scientific field is a sort of "good enough" explanation that has enough predictive power to match our current observations, so new observations could feasibly overturn our entire understandings of any given field because we don't know what we don't know. In fact, most of our current models are already known to be incomplete or only partial understandings with very narrow utility.

You're completely right, "we can't know almost anything." Socrates would have agreed. I guess it's better to accept that and simply continue being as rational as possible, open to new data and arguments as they arise. It's not very satisfying, though, is it?
 

Link

Veteran Member
Premium Member
Delusion is not the real problem in schizophrenia. It's the obsession with a particular outlier beliefs + not striving for any functionality in the real world combination that is the problem. And usually, it's the particular belief they are obsessed about, that is known as "delusional". But the problem is not delusion, it's obsession with the outlier belief and want to make everyone accept it.

It's not that it's a delusion. It's that it preoccupies their time to the extent their health is affected.

While it's said that mentally ill people gravitate to non-structural religion so that they can have their unique interpretation and obsession on things. It's not that any of that is the problem.

The problem is not the delusion at all, at all, at all. It's the obsession that they don't work, nor study, nor have good social interaction while it preoccupies their time and they revisit it over and over again.
 

Saint Frankenstein

Here for the ride
Premium Member
I really wish people would stop misusing mental health terms and concepts. I noticed people like misusing them to bash some group or person they dislike, which is a special kind of disgusting because it insults mentally ill people by associating them with negative character traits. Stop it!

Clinically speaking, a delusion is a very serious thing. It's debilitating. If you honestly believe tiny aliens in a secret hole in your molar are brainwashing you, that's likely to cause you problems in life. Mental healthcare also must be sensitive to religious and cultural norms, to avoid biases and such. The point of treatment is to stop or ease a behavior or psychological state that is objectively harming the patient (or others), of course! In some cases, it would be recommended to a patient to pursue religious practice if that helps with their goals and treatment.
 

Rational Agnostic

Well-Known Member
I am glad that you posted this. I have been struggling with this, myself, for some time now. Uncertainty seems to me like a problem that needs to be fixed through consideration, research, experimentation, and argumentation, especially when it comes to the larger questions in life such as "What is right, and what is wrong?"

Ironically, as a moral rationalist, I do believe that there is an answer to that question for certain and that moral normativity can be understood as a simple expansion of epistemic normativity. Yet I also think there might be some logical counter-argument that I haven't considered which would disprove my position. Even when I'm certain, I'm not certain.

I think this is useful when my goal is to get as close to understanding the truth as possible. "Epistemic humility" is often tauted as an intellectual virtue. Yet, in practice, it means that I am constantly living under a fog of doubt and confusion. I can double-down on a conviction for the sake of argument, based mostly on what I think is most likely to be true, but I don't really have that level of confidence in anything I believe.

I'm also painfully aware of how much I am not an expert in the vast majority of fields, as well as how little we actually know in each of those fields and how much more we have left to figure out. Most of what we think we know in any scientific field is a sort of "good enough" explanation that has enough predictive power to match our current observations, so new observations could feasibly overturn our entire understandings of any given field because we don't know what we don't know. In fact, most of our current models are already known to be incomplete or only partial understandings with very narrow utility.

You're completely right, "we can't know almost anything." Socrates would have agreed. I guess it's better to accept that and simply continue being as rational as possible, open to new data and arguments as they arise. It's not very satisfying, though, is it?

Take it from me as someone who spent the vast majority of my life obsessed with finding certainty in everything--unless you can lie to yourself, you will never achieve it and trying to will only lead to misery and suffering and a waste of precious life. If you can lie to yourself then by all means go for it, and pick the belief that's most appealing and useful to you--I found out the hard way that I am incapable of lying to myself but I still wanted to find certainty and security in my beliefs where none existed. The only way an honest person can find true contentment is through radical agnosticism in every aspect of life.
 

Heyo

Veteran Member
Take it from me as someone who spent the vast majority of my life obsessed with finding certainty in everything--unless you can lie to yourself, you will never achieve it and trying to will only lead to misery and suffering and a waste of precious life. If you can lie to yourself then by all means go for it, and pick the belief that's most appealing and useful to you--I found out the hard way that I am incapable of lying to myself but I still wanted to find certainty and security in my beliefs where none existed. The only way an honest person can find true contentment is through radical agnosticism in every aspect of life.
Even though you didn't say it, you sound a bit like those who accuse us of believing in nothing.
I find Agnosticism to be a good tool to not believe false (or uncertain) things - but that also means that Agnosticism is a tool to only believe true (or highly probable) things.
Iow, I am very sure about the things I do believe. And of those things, that might be true, I keep the confidence interval in mind.
 

MonkeyFire

Well-Known Member
So what? Gnostics are lying cynics… not to mention the biggest losers… do you want to talk to me why my nature is false? It is just a new form of racism. Maybe God just hates you… and that is the problem with suffering….

Is science one big hate crime? #stand up to Jewish hate
 
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wellwisher

Well-Known Member
Per the link in the OP: "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) defines delusions as fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change in light of conflicting evidence."

Having a belief in undetectable, unmeasurable entities and realms immune from verification sets up a bit of a loophole in that no conflicting evidence can be produced by the very virtues of the properties assigned to the beliefs.
Say I firmly believe that Dr Pepper is the best soft drink on earth. Other people, who have a different opinion, come to me, thinking I am delusional. To prove their point they show me the hard data. The sales data says that the sales of Coke and Pepsi, far exceeds that of Dr Pepper, therefore my choice for Dr Pepper is a delusion, since the majority cannot see that as the best soft drink.

There are very few things an emotional thinker believes, that are based exclusively on objective merit, such as our soft drink tastes, versus the objectivity of the national sales data. However, subjectivity is often tailored to the objectivity of the individual; best optimization for the ego. Critical thinking may be based on collective objective standards, but it may not optimize the ego, as well as being whiny with refined tastes.

Religion is part objective and part based on emotional thinking; faith. It can be supported by subjectivity, as well as unique private data, that will be called subjective, even if it is objective to the person; dreams or visions. It feels right to me, like Dr Pepper is the best, even if the majority likes Coke or Pepsi. The spoiled child getting all the attention is not objective in any collective sense, but is about the ego being so important to individuals.

There is no psychological difference between secular emotional thinkers and religious emotional thinkers, at the level of the ego, other than how the ego is molded. Secular tries to inflate the ego in line with the cultural superego; Psychology. The Spiritual person plays down the ego; humble, in favor the inner self; religion and God's world view, which is less ego centric. Both like Dr Pepper, so to speak.

Many of the wars of words between emotional thinkers, arguing Coke versus Pepsi; Evolution versus Creation, has their ego as the prize. It is often the optimized ego underdog, versus the ego built on the prestige of consensus.
 
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